Well we are just recovering from a trip to Legoland Windsor where a good time was had by all! Thinking we would be clever, Alt.Father's sister and I arranged the family reunion outing for 12 on a training day for her children's school. Then they announced the bank holidays for the Jubilee, and the world and his wife decided to descend upon Legoland for the day! Ah well, the more the merrier, I say. Once you get over the audacious charges for everything from car parking upwards, it's a fab day out! Anyway we, like most of the other people there that day, had spent supermarket coupons rather than real money on our entry ticket! In our matching Team T-shirts, we tore up the park and had an absolute whale of a time!
Lego has a special place in the Alt.Household. Despite my rant last week at their disgracefully sexist "Lego Friends" range, Lego can do very little wrong. In fact, it's the main exception to the "no plastic" rule that pervades in our house.
I had never really thought about the impact toys can have on the environment before Alt.D1 was born. I had rolled my eyes at the idea of the stacks of plastic junk in the house that "inevitably" follow the arrival of a small child. We'd get used to it, be ruthless in handing things down, get a good storage system and live with it, I supposed.
Then I saw this video:
I watched it with tears in my eyes and determined that I would not be responsible for any more of that as far as I could help. We already had reusable carrier bags, we already recycled as much as possible. No way was I going to start gathering things which were destined for landfill or to be floating about on the sea one day just for the sake of a couple of years of playtime.
Plastic toys break. Then what can you do with them? You can't fix them, or reuse them for something else, or even recycle them, as the plastics they are made from are non-recyclable. They are a drain on our oil reserves, and their mass production in China means they have thousands of miles of production and distribution under their belt before they reach the toybox.
Wooden toys also break. But any rough edges and splinters can be sanded down. They can be repainted, glued, mended. When they are beyond repair we can use them to heat our home! They can be home-made, they can be produced from sustainable sources, and they can be played with for years and years, mended and fixed between generations.
So before Alt.D1's first birthday I somewhat nervously emailed round the family saying that if they were going to buy her a present (and only IF, there were certainly no expectations!) we'd prefer not to have plastic toys. I sent out the link to the video, and my weirdy alternative hippy request has been complied with, for the most part, for the last 3 years. We've really tried to keep away from plastic toys, and we have mostly succeeded.
Yes, I know that lots of wooden toys are made in China too, many have been given bad press when their paintwork turns out to be poisonous. Some are dull colours, some are uninteresting. But that does not have to be the case. Shop around, buy second hand, try making your own (little kids won't mind, although the older ones might!). Educate your children as to why you made that choice. Alt.D1 knows her toys can be mended, and she's happy with that.
I would urge you to think about what you buy for your children to play with. What is its lifespan? What went into it? Where will it go? Is there an alternative? There are so many beautiful alternatives out there that you may get bitten by the bug too. We have wooden, fabric and knitted play food, wooden (and metal) cars, a wooden dolls' house, car garage, toy mobile phone and Noah's Ark. We have home-made cloth baby dolls (not as scary as some of the shop ones!!), a hobby horse, dolls' crib and push-along walker. We recycled and re-painted a wooden scooter for Christmas (much coveted, that one, she was delighted!). We've got a wooden Wendy House, and metal mini gardening tools... our girls are so lucky to have so many wonderful toys and hopefully, they will last, and be recycled when their time is up.
So, Lego is the exception to the rule. Its unbreakable, reusable, creative qualities have earned it a stay of execution in the Alt.House. Actually, Alt.Father is a teeny bit obsessed with it, I think he was more excited than any of the 6 children who came with us to Legoland on Friday!